New Robert’s Rules of Order

The latest Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised has been released!

For organizations that follow Robert’s Rules of Order, most tend to use the newest edition. That’s because either a state or federal law or the governing documents refer not to a specific numbered edition, but to the latest edition. For instance, two North Carolina state statutes (NCGS § 47F-3-108 & 47C-3-108) provide that as to homeowner and condominium associations, “meetings of the association and the executive board shall be conducted in accordance with the most recent edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.”  Identical language can be found in other states for HOAs and condos, the model statutes from the Uniform Law Commission, and numerous laws and ordinances governing state and local governmental bodies, such as county commissions, city councils, and school boards. The bylaws for associations, churches and unions often have similar language.

Robert’s even recommends that the following phrasing be used in the governing documents when adopting a parliamentary authority:

The rules contained in the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised shall govern the [Association/Society/Union] in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with these bylaws and any special rules of order the [Association/Society/Union] may adopt.
RONR (12th ed.) 56:66.

Since 2011, the “latest” edition has been Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th Edition). However, Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (12th Edition) will be available tomorrow, Tuesday, September 1, 2020.

Wait! Don’t immediately toss out your 11th Edition and assume nothing in it applies any more. The every-10-years-or-so revisions to Robert’s tend to be tweaks, not complete rewrites. For instance, the 2011 edition had about 120 changes, but most were minor. A few significant changes included altering the name of one motion (“Point of Information” to “Request for Information”), additional language about electronic voting, and expanding sections on member and presiding officer misbehavior. The changes to the new 12th Edition are also important, but not likely to significantly change how most meetings are run.

I reviewed an early copy of the new book this weekend (yes, I live large) and note these general differences between the two editions:

  • The 11th Edition was 716 pages; the 12th Edition is 714 pages.
  • The paper size for the 12th Edition is slightly larger and has more space/words per page.
  • The number of total sections, 63, is the same.
  • The section names are identical in the two editions.
  • Section 51 (“Reports of Boards and Committees”) has three new subsections: “Form and Reception of Committee Reports in General,” “Disposition of Particular Types of Committee Reports, and “Oral Reports; Partial and Minority Reports”
  • Paragraph and subparagraph numbers have been added to aid in referencing specific provisions (e.g., “RONR (12th ed.) 35:10-12″).
  • No motion names have been changed, as occurred in the last edition.
  • The Index has been expanded and has more detail.
  • A new Appendix adds 15 pages of “Sample Rules for Electronic Meetings,” which is certainly a sign of our times.

Online resources from the publisher suggest there are 89 changes between the 11th Edition and 12th Edition. The book’s preface states that there are 9 “notable” revisions and 13 “important points” of revision. That would seem to leave 67 other “minor” changes the authors thought should be referenced. (Based on history, there will also be many other editorial/wording changes that don’t get special mention.)

Many of the differences are wording clarifications or fine distinctions mostly of concern to professionals, but here are some changes that may be of interest. The 12th Edition adds greater detail or clarification as to:

  • different types of electronic meetings and their rules, including possible wording for “Full-Featured Internet Meeting Services,” “Teleconference with Internet Voting and Document Sharing,” “Some Members Participate by Speakerphone in Otherwise Face-to-Face Meeting,” and “Telephone Meeting Without Internet Support”
  • executive session practices, the secrecy of discussions or decisions from closed sessions, and lifting secrecy
  • the process of correcting and approving minutes
  • the term “ballot” being broadened to include electronic devices
  • debate on nominations
  • the secrecy of ballot votes
  • ratification of actions from an unauthorized electronic meeting
  • when electing a group of individuals to staggered terms, who gets the longest term
  • what should or should not be included in meeting minutes
  • the process for “filling blanks” (related to amending), and “close suggestions” no longer used
  • how subordinate body bylaws must (or need not) conform to those of the superior body
  • the phrase “one year” term of office possibly being more or less than one year
  • the duties of a vice-president
  • when a negative vote is “intrinsically irrelevant” and not needed
  • the adoption of convention standing rules
  • quorum at conventions related to attendance
  • when the Chair can “assume” a motion
  • timeliness requirements for a Point of Order and greater details on what are “continuing violations”

Some changes will be written about in greater detail on this site in future articles. For a more comprehensive list of changes in the 12th Edition from the authors, visit What’s New in the 12th Edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.

Here are some other online resources as to Robert’s and meeting procedure:

For even greater detail, I’ve written two recent books on running effective meetings (both updated for the new Robert’s Rules of Order) that may be helpful:

Robert’s Rules of Order Fast Track is a quick go-to guide that provides details on the most used motions, appropriate informal procedures for smaller boards, and general advice for shortening meetings. It was the #1 “hot release” in its Amazon category, as small a category as that might be. A recent review of the book can be found at Book Review: Run, Don’t Walk, to Buy Robert’s Rules of Order Fast Track.

Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fifth Edition is a user’s guide to Robert’s Rules that uses questions-and-answers to cover the most misused and asked-about provisions, including those that apply to larger membership meetings. Notes and Comments has received the Phifer Award from the National Communication Association.

The reviewing side of Publisher’s Weekly recently posted great reviews of both books, and each was selected as an “Editor’s Pick,” which is described as “a book of outstanding quality.” If of interest, the reviews can be found at Reviews are in for New Parliamentary Procedure Books!

Both books are available traditional and online bookstores, including Amazon, as well as electronically for the Kindle, Nook and iPad. 

Law Firm Carolinas attorney Jim Slaughter is a Professional Registered Parliamentarians and past President of the American College of Parliamentary Lawyers. He has served as Parliamentarian to many of the largest associations in the world. Jim is author of Robert’s Rules of Order Fast Track and and Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fifth Edition.

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